December 28, 2008

Love and Freedom

Today, there are two possible sets of readings. Let's look at the readings from Sirach (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14) and the Letter to the Colossians (Col 3:12-21).

"Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives..."

Some people have trouble with this passage because it seems unfair. It seems uneven because the meaning of love has been diluted.

We are told earlier in this pasage to "put on love", like we put on a coat - surrounding and clearly visible, over all other things. Love is called the "bond of perfection". It is a bond - something we are held to at all times, something that holds *us*, like that garment surrounding us. Love is bondage - the emotional straitjacket that protects us from ourselves.

In love, we subordinate ourselves to the goal of perfection, to each other and God. The comparison between husbands' and wives' commands, then, becomes one not of degree but of semantics.

The reading from Sirach echoes this. We are called to love our parents, even when it's difficult. Honoring your father preserves you from sin - again, that bond of love restrains you in order to protect you.

Love is difficult. It is not freeing; it is very much the opposite. In that restraint, however, we find a freedom. As G. K. Chesterton put it, children may play freely when there is a fence around to protect them. When that fence is taken away, so is the carefree play.

Love is not the playground, it is the fence, but without the work to set and keep it, we can never be truly free.

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